Sunday, September 22, 2002

#5 Cinergy/Riverfront Moment

Oct. 14, 1975: Controversy at home plate:
Did Armbrister interfere with Fisk in
key play of Game 3?

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk (left) hesitates before throwing to second base in an attempt to throw out the Reds' Cesar Geronimo in the 10th inning of Game 3 of the 1975 World Series. Fisk and Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson argued that Reds batter Ed Armbrister (center) interfered with Fisk on the bunt play. Geronimo eventually scored the winning run.
The Associated Press file

Quick now.

What was the most memorable play at Riverfront Stadium during the 1970 World Series?

Right. The phantom tag at home plate by Baltimore Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks.

How about the most memorable play at Riverfront in the 1972 World Series?

Right. The catch by the Oakland A's Joe Rudi up against the left-field wall.

The third World Series at Riverfront (1975) had a most memorable play, too.

It is the bookend play - the Riverfront Stadium play - that goes with Fenway Park's most memorable moment of the 1975 World Series, the Carlton Fisk foul-pole home run (and body English) to win Game6.

We speak, of course, of the bunt-and-bump sequence between Boston Red Sox catcher Fisk and Reds pinch hitter Ed Armbrister in Game3.

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Given the magnitude of Game3 (the upstart Bosox and heavily favored Big Red Machine were tied at a game apiece), the significance of the moment (it directly determined the outcome of the game) and the history associated with it (the Reds went on to win their first of two consecutive world championships and ultimately were proclaimed as the second-greatest team of all time, behind only the 1927 New York Yankees), the bunt-and-bump sequence rates top-five status at Riverfront/Cinergy.

At the time it was played, the 1975 World Series was proclaimed the greatest ever. Twenty-seven years later, it still ranks no worse than the top three.

Drum roll, please, to set up the Fisk-Armbrister collision{hellip}.

In the top of the ninth inning, Bosox right fielder Dwight Evans hit a dramatic, two-run homer off Rawley Eastwick to tie the game. The homer also tied the then-record of six home runs in a World Series game.

The Reds' Cesar Geronimo led off the 10th with a single. Reds manager Sparky Anderson then called upon Armbrister to lay down a bunt.

Some things you might have forgotten about Game3 of the 1975 World Series:

The Bosox took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Carlton Fisk's home run off Reds starter Gary Nolan, who left in the fifth with a muscle spasm that affected his neck and shoulder.

In the fourth, the Reds took a 2-1 lead against Bosox starter Rick Wise. With two out, Tony Perez walked and then surprised the fans - and the Bosox - by stealing second. It was his first stolen base of the season that didn't come on the back end of a double steal. Bench then hit a two-run homer.

The Reds built their lead to 5-1 in the fifth (including back-to-back homers by Davey Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo), but Pat Darcy couldn't hold it (Fred Lynn sacrifice fly), nor could Clay Carroll (Bernie Carbo pinch-hit homer) or Rawley Eastwick (Evans' two-run homer in the ninth to tie it at 5).

All season long, the little-used Bahamian drew chortles from his teammates when he said he would play a big role in the Reds' success. "I'm the key man," he told them.

He certainly got his 15 minutes of fame - and then some.

Armbrister's bunt bounded high in the dirt in front of home plate. Fisk fielded the ball and went to throw to second base to try to force Geronimo. But Fisk got tangled up with Armbrister, causing him to throw wildly into center field.

By the time the Bosox got the ball back to the infield, Geronimo was at third and Armbrister at second with no outs.

Home plate umpire Larry Barnett ruled no interference, over the vituperative protests of the Red Sox.

"Of course he interfered with me," Fisk said immediately after the game. "You all saw it. He stood right under the ball."

Barnett's interpretation of the interference rule, however, was that interference can occur only if the batter intentionally gets in the way of the fielder.

"Each man has an equal right (to run and field, respectively, within the baselines)," Barnett said.

The Bosox walked Pete Rose intentionally to load the bases and set up a force play. But Joe Morgan hit a fly ball over center fielder Fred Lynn's head and the Reds won 6-5.

The Reds loved Barnett's interpretation, of course, but the Bosox's argument had merit.

By Armbrister's own admission after the game, he wasn't in a hurry to get out of Fisk's way.

"The ball bounced high and I just stood there for a moment watching it," Armbrister said. "Then he (Fisk) came up from behind me and bumped me as he took the ball."

Armbrister also gave another rendition of the controversial play after the game. This one made him seem less to blame.

"As I broke for first base, he (Fisk) hit me in the back and reached over my head for the ball before I could continue on to first base," Armbrister said. "I stood there because he hit me in the back and I couldn't move."

Epilogue: Whatever the facts, the Reds capitalized and went on to become world champions for the first time in 35 years, shedding the label of runner-up (1970, 1972). The Reds didn't hit like their nickname - the Big Red Machine - during the 1975 Series, but they did in 1976. The Reds beat the Yankees in four games and went down in history as one of the great teams of all time.

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